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Iced Earth, A Life Once Lost, Epicurean, Ion Vein, Arise And Ruin @ The Pearl Room, Mokena, IL (USA)

in Friday, 2 May 2008 at The Pearl Room
by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos

The first day 'Powerfest' was not nearly as good as the second day, but it was more diverse allowing what was thought to a wider range audience.  I personally think everyone showed up for ICED EARTH and pretty much no one else.  Since throughout the entire evening you could hear nothing but ICED EARTH chants no matter where you were in the venue, it gave me the chills.

\[Ian] Due to the train schedule I arrived just as ARISE AND RUIN were leaving the stage, but according to what I had listened to online and by some of the crowd response I over heard during set up I didn't miss much.  Second up was ION VEIN, who I kind of saw at 'Powerfest '06, but I was so wasted I don't really recall.  They had a new singer this evening and new more aggressive sound and it was fucking great.  The singer Allan was all over the place, a true showman.  Though some didn't appreciate his antics, but to each his own I suppose.  Chris Lotesto their guitar player was shredding away during a great majority of the set and providing some excellent backing vocals.  I must say that their new sound is quite the improvement from their old sound; I do own an album by them but I can't recall the name.  I would to say that I was thoroughly impressed with their sound that was extremely original and extremely kick ass.

EPICUREAN was next and I was semi-looking forward to watching them.  While I will say their stage presence and overall interaction with the fans was second to none for the festival.  The music on the other hand I thought was going to be Progressive and less Metalcore.  I couldn't hear the keyboardist that was on stage really at all, which was a let down. I guess if I had to describe their sound perhaps Progressive Metalcore, maybe? I am not really sure, but I think that if they polish up their sound a little bit they could be really good.

The last band before ICED EARTH was A LIFE ONCE LOST and to begin with I was expecting more from them walking in; while some were negative about them from the start I was trying to give them a fair chance.  I thought they lacked any real presence on stage and I also thought the singer's little tirade about ?how we should shut up?..  This was due to some fans chanting for ICED EARTH in between songs of their set, which I agree is disrespectful though I thought it be even less tactful to yell at some fans rather than embrace the 20 dues that were really getting into it.  To end that little rant I will say, I don't mind them on cd, but live no thank you.

\[Dimitris] This would be the fourth time that I would watch ICED EARTH on-stage having both witnessed the Barlow and the Ripper days. So, after the announced of Matt's return ICED EARTH would make their first on-stage appearance as headliners in the first day of Chicago's 'Powerfest' at Mokena, IL. To be honest with you the only reasons to attend the 'Powefest' days were the headlining bands, ICED EARTH and TESTAMENT.
After entering the venue I made my way to the merch stands to have a look at the tour t-shirts. There I was a little bit annoyed by the print on the back of ICED EARTH's tour t-shirt where it said We are back. Where did they go and now they are back? Were the last two albums with Ripper on the vocals released under a different name or they just don't deserve a place on the band's back catalogue. Nevertheless, this was clearly Schaffer decision and since I am just a fan I will just have to respect it.

\[Ian] I also agree with Dimitris here.  I thought it was basically a kick in the crotch to Ripper, but I did not let sour my evening by any means.  I had been looking forward to seeing Matt Barlow sing for a very long time and this evening the chance to see my favorite band ever in front of the barricade.

\[Dimitris] Without any banner on-stage ICED EARTH came on stage performing the homonymous song from the Dark Saga album. The crowd went crazy at least shouting the name of the 'returned' singer from the very beginning. Schaffer took his place as always on the right of the stage being clearly in a high mood. As you probably understand when Barlow set foot on the stage singing the first lines of the song everyone went even more crazy. The sound was both loud and clear giving as the chance to judge whether this return was worth it. The first thing I noticed was that the band seemed more compact and that Schaffer was enjoying his time more than he had with Ripper on his side. Maybe he thought that without Matt the band could not repeat the successful releases like The Dark Saga or Something Wicked This Way Comes. Without any pause ICED EARTH continued with the faster Vengeance Is Mine, Burning Times and Declaration Day from The Glorious Burden album. During the latter track I realized that Matt's voice was lowered since he could not perform the higher and more aggressive pitches of Tim Owens. After this song the band took a short break and gave the audience the chance to welcome Matt who was clearly moved by their response. After saying that he was glad to be back the band performed another The Dark Saga song Violate that was followed by the excellent Pure Evil were Matt referred to the tragic 9_11 events.

\[Ian] :faints: That was basically my reaction when they stared playing Dark Saga.  I just couldn't believe the overall vocal prowess that Matt displayed and not to mention Brent beating the shit out of his drums and being really animated more anyone on stage let alone the drummer.  I thought Troy and Freddy could have came to the forefront a little more and done a little more interacting with the crowd.  Though I might not have noticed what they were doing since my eyes and ears were basically fixed on what was going between Jon and Matt and their chemistry.  To hear songs like Watching Over You and A Question of Heaven literally brought a tear to my eye, it was a very emotional moment for me to see this performance.  

\[Dimitris] Since, I was in the photo pit I got the chance to watch Schaffer performing without loosing a single beat. I bet he was born with a metronome in his head! Troy Seele took over the majority of the guitar leads, while Brent Smedley and Freddie Vidales were building the solid rhythm section the ICED EARTH tracks demand. The band shared the audience's high mood and gave a powerful performance. To my eyes Matt looks more Heavy Metal now despite the fact that he doesn't possess his long hair. Vocally he did an excellent job on ?his songs while, as I said, he was sounded kind o weak on the Ripper ones. The setlist was very good comprising the most popular songs like Watching Over Me, Melancholy (Holy Martyr) giving the chance to the ecstatic metalheads to sing along. The band also added the brand new song I Walk Alone that is a typical staccato ICED EARTH. After the melodic A Question of Heaven the band left the stage and return for an encore that featured three songs with Iced Earth as the last one.

\[Ian] The encore of Melancholy, My Own Savior, and Iced Earth basically tore my vocal chords to shreds.  At this point in the evening I have been going fucking nuts, the security even asked me at one point to take more pictures otherwise they would escort me out, and to have the finale be three of the greatest songs ever written, it was just majestic, magical and fucking metal at its finest.

To sum things up, I think with Matt behind the mic the band feels more confident and for that reason happier. I think that the band's following 'Summer Slaughter' tour will be a successful one and if you get the chance go and check them out.
\[Ian] All I have to say is, I CAN NOT GOD DAMN WAIT TIL PROGPOWER USA IX!!!

ICED EARTH setlist:
01. Dark Saga
02. Vengeance is Mine
03. Burning Times
04. Declaration Day
05. Violate06. Pure Evil
07. Watching Over Me
08. Ten Thousand Strong
09. Dracula
10. The Coming Curse
11. I Walk Alone
12. Setian Massacre
13. Travel in Stygian
14. A Question of Heaven


15. Melancholy (Holy Martyr)
16. My Own Savior
17. Iced Earth

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